Walk through the halls of Microsoft’s headquarters and you’ll see employees from diverse backgrounds, including individuals with visible and invisible disabilities, working side-by-side in collaboration. They’re busy developing products, solving customer problems, and driving innovation throughout the company.
Microsoft is just one example of a company that’s created an environment where employees with disabilities are valued, respected, and empowered to reach their full potential. In this article, we’ll take a look at the key characteristics that set inclusive companies apart when it comes to disability inclusion. From proactive recruitment practices to fostering supportive communities, we’ll explore how these disability-inclusive companies actively embrace diversity and create an accessible and welcoming workplace.
Disability-inclusive companies don’t get that way by accident. They actively seek out and encourage individuals with disabilities to apply for positions within the company.
They form partnerships with local supported employment organizations, tapping into talent networks within the disability community.
Likewise, they attend job fairs geared toward people with disabilities and actively promote open positions on dedicated diversity-focused job platforms like Disability Job Exchange and DiversityJobs, making it easier for candidates with disabilities to find and apply for relevant roles.
Microsoft is a great example of a company that actively recruits individuals with disabilities. The tech giant regularly hosts neurodiversity hiring events aimed at attracting neurodivergent candidates.
“By just being more inclusive in your interview process, you will find incredible talent you may have been otherwise screening out,” says Neil Barnett, director of inclusive hiring and accessibility at Microsoft.
In addition to seeking out candidates with disabilities, inclusive companies go the extra mile to remove any barriers that might deter these individuals from getting hired.
This could be as simple as asking candidates about accommodation requests early in the recruitment process, or making sure that interviews are held in an accessible location. It might also mean educating recruiters and interviews about disabilities in order to promote understanding and break down ableist beliefs.
To see a great example of a company with inclusive hiring practices, let’s take a look at IBM. The company allows candidates to choose between in-person, virtual, or phone interviews based on their preferences and needs.
They also actively encourage candidates to request reasonable accommodations they may need during the interview process, such as extra time or breaks between interviews, sign language interpreters, or specialized equipment.
To further support disability inclusion, IBM interviewers receive disability awareness training to help them avoid unconscious bias and create an accessible and welcoming interview environment. These initiatives reflect the company’s dedication to fostering an inclusive hiring process.
Of course, inclusive companies don’t stop at the hiring process. They work hard to create a culture that empowers employees with disabilities to thrive in their roles.
Inclusive companies provide disability awareness training for all employees, fostering a more empathetic and inclusive work environment. A great example of this comes from Bloomberg. The company regularly hosts workshops and immersive experiences that help employees better understand the experiences and challenges faced by individuals with disabilities.
For one such event, Bloomberg partnered with Beyond Our Sight so employees could experience the perspective of visually impaired individuals firsthand. Through these training opportunities, Bloomberg equips its employees with the skills to support their colleagues with disabilities appropriately.
Employee resource groups (ERGs) are another tool to create supportive and inclusive communities. Bloomberg has also developed B-ABLE, an employee-run community that advocates for accessibility improvements and promotes disability inclusion within the organization.
B-ABLE champions initiatives like revising job descriptions to use more inclusive language, organizing networking and mentorship opportunities to help individuals with disabilities advance their careers within the organization, and encouraging allyship among employees outside the disability community.
Another aspect that sets inclusive companies apart is that they readily offer flexible working schedules and remote work options.
These companies understand that productivity is not solely tied to desk time. Instead, they empower employees to tailor their work arrangements to accommodate personal needs and preferences.
Salesforce, which has been named a “Best Place to Work for Disability Inclusion” five years in a row, offers employees the option to work from home some or all of the time. These policies benefit all employees, but especially those with a disability that makes it difficult to commute or spend their entire day in a traditional office.
Additionally, Salesforce employees are encouraged to focus on achieving their goals and meeting performance metrics rather than adhering to strict work hours. This approach allows employees to manage their time in a way that optimizes their productivity and well-being — from attending medical appointments during the day to taking short breaks to accommodate a chronic health condition.
“It’s our responsibility as employers to empower our people to get the job done during the schedule that works best for them and their teams, and provide flexible options to help make them even more productive,” says Salesforce.
If there is one overarching theme that threads through most of the points covered in this article, it is that disability-inclusive companies are proactively committed to hiring and supporting individuals with disabilities. They go beyond simple diversity quotas, actively seeking out and embracing individuals with disabilities and removing barriers that might prevent them from reaching their full potential.
Their examples serve as inspiration for other organizations that want to create a culture that attracts and welcomes employees with disabilities.
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